This post isn’t about a trip, but rather something that’s occurred on almost every one of my trips: bus rides.
Bus rides in Brazil, at least in my part of Brazil, are fairly painless logistically. The bus shows up more or less on time, it’s more or less clean, and you eventually show up where you intended. It’s the people that add the element of unpredictability.
This post was inspired by my last bus trip, a three-hour ride from Araraquara, Sao Paulo to my hometown. The man next to me was snorting every 10 to 15 seconds, as if he were having an awfully difficult time trying to hock up a snot ball. There was a woman yelling on the phone in front of me as if it were some new contraption she wasn’t sure how to use. There was a two-year-old blabbering for every second of those three hours. But that wasn’t what got my attention.
What did was a man sitting across the aisle from me, clipping his fingernails.
He was old, and using one of those tools nail technicians use to cut off your cuticles when you get a manicure. His nails were thickened into gnarled yellow bone stubs. As I was staring at him, one of his larger clippings flew up into the air and hit the woman in front of him. She looked around, confused. He continued clipping. He then pulled out a nail file, his nail dust floating around the bus, being breathed in by the rest of us. His pinky finger sported a coke nail, or as I was told by a friend, a nail to pick his nose with. I’d like to think it’s a multipurpose tool.
Twice now on the way to Sao Paulo I’ve come dangerously close to being puked on. The first was by a little girl across the aisle from me. She was sleeping on her mom’s shoulder when suddenly a stream of chunky vomit gently fell out of her mouth and landed all over the seat, floor, her mom, and the unsuspecting victim sitting next to them. The mom and daughter left the bus at the next stop, leaving her enormous pile of puke on the seat and the bus smelling of stomach bile and hot dogs. The second was a not-so-little boy sitting on his mom’s lap next to me. He said the same phrase for 4 hours of the bus ride, and then started crying. I took that as a bad sign, but his mother apparently did not, until he projectile vomited all over them.
Another bus favorite happened on a local bus in Belem. It was packed full, and my friend and I were fortunate enough to have seats. She had the aisle, and a fat woman kept pushing her fupa into her shoulder. We thought the woman herself was being pushed, or that it was an accident in some way, but she just kept on forcing her gunkum into my friend’s personal space, and my friend kept on moving over, and in this way the woman conquered much of the space in and around my friend’s face.
I’ve heard stories of robberies and shootings on buses, but I’ve been fortunately enough to never experience anything dangerous. It’s usually just a lot of sweaty fat pushed against me until I arrive at my destination. Not even comparable to the horror of riding Greyhound, where you run the risk of being decapitated and eaten. Cheers, Brazil; you win.